Tilting at Bagpipes (featuring Dutch Baby Pancake with Lemon and Sugar)
*In an effort to use my time productively, I downloaded a Japanese hourly alarm app to help me with my workouts. It would notify me with fuzzy animal sounds and pictures that it was time to do another set of sit-ups and lunges. The app broke by the first alarm, but I still did the exercises. I maintained progress for two hours. TWO. HOURS. IN. A. ROW. #washboardwonderland
Coincidentally, I discovered that I need no phone app to remember to eat cake on the hour. This is what happens when you bake multiple cakes for your blog and tv appearance and then go into lockdown. Here’s the cake recipe in case you missed it last week: https://awonderlandofwords.com/true-beauty-comes-from-within-featuring-imperfect-chocolate-cake/ It’s freezable!
*5 days ago, I offered a gift certificate to a client who was interested in having me prepare a gourmet dinner for his daughter’s 40th birthday. I let him know that we were closed for the protection of our clients during quarantine, but the gift certificate would be valid for a year. Today he writes back and lets me know that he’s not going to purchase a gift certificate because “no offense,” my business probably won’t survive the pandemic. I felt a numbness in my arms and a burning in my eyes as I read his response. He said it so easily, as if he was adding a side dish to his order. “I’d like some fries with that and everything you’ve worked your entire life to build is incinerated. No offense!”
A few hours later, one of my annual Christmas party clients emailed to ask how A Wonderland of Food was doing. She knew small businesses would be hit the hardest and thought of me. The fact that she would reach out to offer support and blessings helps me know there is a light at the end of this long tunnel. Please support local small business however you can. Gift certificates work really well.
*A few months ago, with eerie prescience, I purchased a couple of blocks of glycerine to make homemade soaps.
Yesterday morning, following a crafty website’s suggestion, I made one batch of soap with lavender essence and mandarin zest and one exfoliating batch with fresh coffee grounds.
Francis says the bars of coffee soap smell like a cigar-butt ashtray. He’s not wrong. They smell like a pool hall on 14th street that I used to frequent in high school.
Anyway, I’ve got free soap for anyone interested! The mandarin/ lavender has been spoken for already.
*“CRAWWWWKKKK!” Francis whooped at a pair of crows circling and diving in the blue sky above us, the way he always does when he sees a crow. The way, he says, his mother always did.
Meals was panting and tugging at her leash in the deserted street like she always does when Francis is squawking.
“You’re always leaning at crows!” I called out. “Do you have CROWna virus?!? Haha.”
“Ha. I see what you did there.” We were puttering up the second hill of our daily two hills walk.
“Wait, is it leaning at crows?”
“Counting crows,” he responded, shaking his head like that one was easy.
“No no, the other crow expression. Pitching at crows? Diving at crows? What is that expression?” I was physically leaning over as if my posture would shake the idiom loose.
“It’s windmills. Tilting at windmills.” My body stayed veering down.
“Oh right. Windmills.”
“Tilting is jousting. It means jousting in that saying.”
“So if tilting is jousting, what’s windmills?” I was jousting the air by this point. Tilting and jousting at no one.
He had no response. Supersmart husband suddenly rendered speechless. Meals scampered up the path littered with yellowing magnolia leaves. The sky was endless, full of inspiration and possibilities. I couldn’t remember what day it was anymore.
“If tilting is jousting, what’s windmills!” I began to yell at the deserted world because I’m a 10-year-old in a 50-year-old’s body. “IF TILTING IS JOUSTING, WHAT’S WINDMILLS!!!” Shouting because no one was there to say, “shut up, Alison.”
Then silence. Because it wasn’t that funny after all.
Two hills done. Only a half mile before home where we would putz around for hours.
“Let’s go this way instead. I’d love to add another hill or two,” I suggested a new path hoping that adding another incline would magically dissolve the new pudgy dimples in my thighs. I’m calling them “new” because it’s easier to blame a pandemic than my laziness, age, or cake-eating predilection.
Francis shrugged why not, Meals looked confused then thrilled, and we meandered together. Oaks rustled. Slugs sunbathed. Scrub Jays bragged about color and freedom. Then this sound from far away… almost musical… almost pleasing. It was like a million flats and sharps all mixed together into a long, single whiney note. It took a second for me to decipher the noise, though it was distantly familiar, like a cousin you see once a decade.
He stood, this bagpipist (bagpiper?) on the sidewalk, huffing a jumbled melody from the instrument strapped to his chest. He seemed to be playing for a child, who stood across the street from him listening attentively. We walked like zombies down the tree-lined road toward these stranger’s late-afternoon silhouettes. When we were about a half-block away, the song found its end. The child jumped and cheered, but didn’t cross the street. The musician bowed gently to his fan. And then from behind us, people cheered. Doors suddenly ajar with the neighbor’s applauding from the right and the left, windows flung open to share cheers from invisible fans. And us too, of course, clapping so hard my palms burned. Grinning and tearing up and yelling like the Yankees won the series, “Woohoo! Yesyeyes!!! WOOOOOOO!!!” BAGPIPES!
We are not alone. I’ve never known that more.
And we’ll get through this together… apart.
*In one final note, my friend Myrna passed away early this morning in her home. My condolences to Dieter and her family. She was one of a kind and will be deeply missed. I had the pleasure of cooking for them multiple times over the years and wrote this piece about her years ago: https://awonderlandofwords.com/impact-featuring-dynamite-scallops-in-roasted-sesame-mushrooms/
My moments in the kitchen continue to be my most meditative ones. I hope to have a more regular update with other people’s recipes I’m cooking.
Here’s what’s been inspiring me lately. It’s easy to make, really impressive, and is made with stuff you probably have in your quarantine kitchen. You can top it with lemon and sugar, as I did here, or other sweet stuff like berries, yogurt, maple syrup, or jelly. You can, alternatively, top it with savory items like cheese or sauteed mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, spinach.
Dutch Baby Pancake with Lemon and Sugar
adapted from King Arthur Flour Recipe Collection
- 2 tablespoons unsalted melted butter, separated
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ cup milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Confectioners sugar for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Melt 1 tbs of the butter in a 9 inch cast iron skillet. The size of the pan matters here, so measure carefully. Too small, it’ll overflow. Too large, it won’t puff as high. You can also melt the butter and pour it into a 9 inch cake pan. Cake pans and cast iron skillets have vertical sides that the dutch baby will climb, regular saute pans are more angular and will not have the same effect producing the curling sides of the dutch baby.
- Whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla, and eggs.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, whisking until fairly smooth; a few small lumps are OK.
- Stir in the second tablespoon of melted butter, and pour the batter into the pan.
- Bake the pancake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it’s puffed and golden, with deeper brown patches
- Remove it from the oven, and sprinkle with the lemon juice, then the sugar.
Please take care of each other. Take your time, appreciate the quiet moments, and STAY INSIDE!
Here’s a clip of me making these from home on KATU’s Afternoon Live: